Following up on last week’s story about how the time is right to grow women’s hockey on television, it appears NBC is taking a step in the right direction to help promote the game of women’s hockey.
As the sports world remains on pause, NBC and NBCSN are extending “Hockey Week in America” through the weekend. Originally, on Friday, NBCSN was to show the 2018 Women’s Olympic Gold Medal Game between Team USA and Canada at 10 p.m. That game was to be on following the 2010 Men’s Olympic Gold Medal Game between Team USA and Canada which started at 8 p.m. Instead, the 2018 Women’s Gold Medal Game will be seen on NBC starting at 1 p.m. this Sunday, March 29th.
The 2018 Olympic Women’s Gold Medal Game was exciting and thrilling. It had a memorable finish between the Americans and Canadians. Entering the game, Canada had won four-straight gold medals in 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014. Three of those victories had come against their arch-rival Team USA in 2002, 2010, and 2014. The most devastating victory came in 2014, when Canada rallied from 2-1 down in the third period to win the gold medal in overtime. While the Americans had overcome their demons at the IIHF Women’s World Championships, Team USA was looking to get the monkey off their back at the Olympics. Team USA was seeking its first gold medal since winning the very first women’s gold medal at the Olympics in 1998.
This was a subtle move by the network to put the spotlight on women’s hockey only for a few hours. As previously mentioned, the game was supposed to be seen on Friday night at 10 p.m. However, the network decided to stick with the NHL Theme of the Week by showing playoff heroes. Nobody knows why the change to the women’s game from Friday to Sunday, but it was the right thing to do. Did the network give in to the public pressure surrounding the fact the game was on late on a Friday night? Was the network pressured by fans on Twitter to move the game? Both are likely possibilities. Everyone knows our feeling here at this site, that women’s hockey should be given equal time as the men.
If the game was to have originally happened on Friday, how many people would have watched that game and felt the urge to turn to women’s hockey and become fans of the sport? The diehard hockey fans were going to watch, but it would be hard to attract the casual fan. However, now that the game is on a Sunday afternoon on the main network, hockey fans will see what the sport of women’s hockey is all about. Now, not only will the diehards watch, but the casual fan will also tune in. Getting as many eyes on the sport will only help the game grow once sports return full-time. Those who are fans of hockey as a whole know that women’s hockey is just exciting if not more exciting than some NHL games.
It is a shame the best players from around the world are not competing at the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship because of the coronavirus. That would have been another opportunity for the game to grow even more than it did this year. And do not say there is not a demand for women’s hockey. A record crowd of 13,320 filled the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California to see Team USA defeat Canada in the Rivalry Series. Even though the games were late in Canada and the United States, fans tuned in to see these two rivals get it on.
But just showing one game is not enough. There is a library full of great women’s hockey games that have occurred at the Olympics. Why not show the 1998 Women’s Olympic Gold Medal Game that saw current Seattle scout and Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato, along with MSG and NBCSN hockey commentary A.J. Mleczko, win the first-ever women’s gold medal at the Olympics for Team USA. What better way to showcase the progression of women’s hockey than featuring those two. Considering Mleczko was featured as part of the all-female broadcast on International Women’s Day between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, maybe the network can promote her even more.
But NBC is not the only network that can help promote the game. How about ESPN and NHL Network show some women’s hockey during this period when sports are paused. ESPN has the film of the last two PWHPA events in Philadelphia and Tempe. While the footage is on ESPN+ not everyone has access to it. And how about NHL Network show some classic series from past Women’s World Championships instead showing the chronicles of the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Raising the Cup series. Some of that time can and should be used to show women’s hockey.
The move by NBC to showcase the 2018 Women’s Gold Medal Game is only a small step in the right direction to help grow the game of women’s hockey. More needs to be done and I will say it again, the time is right to grow the game of women’s hockey.